Paris Peace Conference 1919

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The " Big Four " (from left): David Lloyd George , Vittorio Emanuele Orlando , Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson during the negotiations in Versailles.

The Paris Peace Conference took place from January 18, 1919 to January 21, 1920. Its goal was to end the First World War with a peace treaty . The result was the Versailles Peace Treaty .


American caricature on the military threat against Germany: Because Wilson's 14-point plan is allegedly not being adhered to, Marshal Foch adds his saber point as the 15th point.

The fighting between Austria-Hungary and Italy had already ended on November 3, 1918 in Villa Giusti, and Germany's with France and Great Britain on November 11, 1918 at Compiègne, with armistices that made it impossible for the defeated to resume the fight.

In the discussion mostly blurred, but important, is the distinction between an inter-allied pre-conference and the actual peace negotiations. The inter-allied pre-conference, excluding the German delegation, set the terms of peace from January 1919. Thereafter, in May 1919, the victorious powers staggered the peace negotiations with the Central Powers and the successor states of the Danube Monarchy, whereby the negotiations with the former enemy states or their successor states lasted only briefly and were largely conducted in writing (cf. Fritz Fellner). The often cited exclusion of the Central Powers from the negotiations is therefore correct insofar as the decisive pre-conference was an internal conference of the Allies.

32 states took part in this conference, with the victorious powers Great Britain , France , Italy and the USA being the main nations. Compared to earlier peace treaties, the treaties were considerably more extensive, since they regulated the establishment of the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO), which still exists today, in addition to the points typical of peace treaties such as territorial issues and reparation obligations.

The inter-allied conference began on French instigation on January 18, the anniversary of the founding of the German Empire at Versailles in 1871. In the same hall of mirrors of the Palace of Versailles , in which the Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed emperor, the contract was later also signed Germany instead. The conference can be divided into two parts, which arose from a break in negotiations during a home visit by US President Woodrow Wilson from mid-February to mid-March. Wilson tried in the USA to win support for his League of Nations project. At the same time, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George traveled to Great Britain to initiate domestic political reforms. The French Prime Minister and Conference President Georges Clemenceau was shot by an anarchist assassin on February 19, but the conference was able to continue.

In the first part of the negotiations, the statutes of the League of Nations were largely drawn up in their final form by a commission headed by Wilson. Wilson relied on the designs of the South African Jan Christiaan Smuts and the British Robert Cecil . In the first part, too, extensive agreement was reached on the distribution of the German colonies in the form of mandates from the League of Nations. In addition, the disputed border issues in the Balkans (with the exception of the demarcation between Italy and Yugoslavia) were dealt with in this phase.

After Wilson's return, deliberations focused on peace conditions for Germany. Furthermore, topics from East Central Europe were dealt with. There was a scandal about the territorial gains of Italy when the Italian government was unable to enforce its claim to the Dalmatia assured in the London Treaty of 1915 and fell over it in June.

Wilson's ideas from his 14-point program , in particular the peoples ' right to self-determination , were in  some cases massively disregarded - as in the case of South Tyrol . Large national minorities in the newly created nation states of Eastern Europe represented a heavy burden for the desired peace order and were among the indirect triggers of the Second World War . Even with his ideas about the freedom of the seas, Wilson could not prevail. The US Senate therefore refused to ratify the treaties.

Versailles Peace Treaty

German negotiating delegation in Versailles in 1919 ( Walther Schücking , Johannes Giesberts , Otto Landsberg , Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau , Robert Leinert , Carl Melchior )

On June 22, 1919, with the sea ​​blockade continuing and under the pressure of a military ultimatum from the Allies for the acceptance of the peace treaty by the Weimar National Assembly and on June 28, 1919 in Versailles, it was signed by the German delegation.

Territorial Regulations

Due to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to cede the realm of Alsace-Lorraine to France, the province of Posen (historical Greater Poland ) and West Prussia to Poland; the Memel country was placed under French administration and occupied by Lithuania in 1923 . Elections in Memelland produced a high proportion of votes (around 80 percent) for the German parties. In addition, the so-called Hultschiner Ländchen had to be ceded to the newly founded Czechoslovakia. Danzig was declared a Free City under the control of the newly established League of Nations .

Referendums were planned in Eupen-Malmedy-St.Vith (Belgian after a vote under unequal conditions), in Northern Schleswig with the possibility of division (as a result the northern part Danish), in Upper Silesia with the possibility of division (as a result, the area remaining in Germany was the same the larger German share of the vote in the vote).

The Saar area was placed under the administration of the League of Nations for 15 years , with France taking over economic sovereignty.

The German colonies were declared " mandate areas " of the League of Nations, which were subordinated to its members for provisional administration.

Military Regulations

In order to allow the beginning of a general restriction of armaments of all nations, Germany had to undertake to have only one professional army with a maximum strength of 115,000 men. Heavy artillery , tanks and aircraft were banned, as were heavy units and submarines for the Navy. In the west of the German Reich a demilitarized zone was created, the border of which ran about 50 kilometers east of the Rhine . The Rhineland was created by the Allies 15 years occupied . Zones were defined on the borders of the German Empire in which no fortifications could be built or changed. Several rivers were internationalized by the provisions of the Versailles Treaty.

War debt and reparations

For the first time in history, the victors contractually resolved the question of war guilt by forcing Germany and its allies to assume sole responsibility for the war under Article 231 of the treaty. This led to decades of discussion. The Allies derived their claim to reparations from Article 231 . Initially, they stipulated reparations amounting to 269 billion gold marks , which were to be paid out in 42 annual installments. A part had to be made in material deliveries, the demands and regulations on the reparation payments were later toned down ( see: German reparations after the First World War ).


The provisions of the Versailles Treaty were not sufficient to permanently eliminate Germany's great power position. Nevertheless, they were tough enough to weigh heavily on Germany's relationship with the Allies. The Versailles Treaty, classified in large parts of German society as a dictated peace, helped nationalist circles in the Reich to gain popularity.

The French Marshal Foch commented on the Versailles Treaty with the words: “This is no peace. This is a twenty year truce. "

The US did not sign the contract. On August 25, 1921, with the Berlin Treaty, they concluded a separate peace with the German Reich, which excluded some of the toughest provisions.

China wanted the German colonies in Shandong to be returned to China. With the treaty, however, the German colonies in Shandong were ceded to Japan. The decisions of the Paris Peace Conference generated great dissatisfaction and disappointment among the Chinese and aroused strong nationalist and anti-Japanese sentiments. This led to the May Fourth Movement in 1919. As a result, the Chinese delegates refused to sign the peace treaty because it did not take China's wishes into account.

Detail from William Orpen's painting The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919 : The German transport minister Johannes Bell ( center ) signs the Versailles peace treaty, opposite him the representatives of the victorious powers.

Treaty of Saint Germain

On September 10, 1919, the Treaty of Saint-Germain between the Allies and Austria was signed in St. Germain near Paris . Austria had to cede South Tyrol to Italy , as well as the area around Trieste . In addition, there were assignments of territory to the newly founded Yugoslavia . Relations between the Republic of Austria and other successor states of the former Danube Monarchy , including those relating to the protection of minorities, were also regulated in this treaty after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire had already occurred in 1918. Austria was prohibited from joining the German Reich, and renaming the state to " German Austria " was prohibited. Conscription was also banned in Austria . The maximum strength of the Austrian army was set at 30,000 soldiers. The USA made peace with the Republic of Austria in 1921.

Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine

In the Paris suburban treaty between Neuilly and Bulgaria , signed on November 27, 1919, the strength of the Bulgarian army was limited to 20,000 soldiers. Bulgaria had to cede several smaller areas in the west to Yugoslavia . In addition, the Bulgarian-ruled part of Thrace fell to Greece.

Treaty of Trianon

On June 4, 1920, the Treaty of Trianon was signed in the Paris suburb of Trianon . The Hungarian parts of Slovakia had to be ceded to Czechoslovakia , while Slavonia and the Banat fell to Yugoslavia . In addition, had to Hungary , the Burgenland in Austria and Transylvania in Romania to cede. The Hungarian professional army was limited to 35,000 soldiers.

Treaty of Sèvres

The last “Paris Suburb Contracts” were signed on August 10, 1920 in Sèvres . The most important of these treaties, the treaty with the Ottoman Empire , stipulated the internationalization of the Turkish Straits. The Turkey had to Eastern Thrace and the city of Smyrna , together with environment of Greece assign, and all located under Turkish control Aegean Islands up to the Dodecanese , which in Italy fell. Cilicia and Syria came under French control, while Cyprus , Egypt , Palestine and Iraq came under British administration. Kurdistan was granted autonomous status, while Armenia became independent. The Turkish army strength was limited to 50,000 soldiers. The Treaty of Sèvres was not confirmed by the Turkish National Assembly. There were armed conflicts with Greece, which led to the evacuation of East Thrace and Smyrna by the Greeks by 1922. In 1921 the withdrawal of the French from Cilicia was brought about by treaty, while Armenia was divided between the Soviet Union and Turkey. In the period that followed, thousands of Armenians were persecuted by the Turks. In the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923, the Turkish territorial acquisitions were confirmed, and the Allies waived claims for reparations ( see also: Consequences of the First World War and Paris Suburb Treaties ).

At this conference, the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement between the World Zionist Organization and Emir Feisal , the presumptive king of Syria (later of Iraq ), was concluded, but it did not come into force afterwards.


  • Alan Sharp: The Versailles Settlement. Peacemaking in Paris, 1919. Macmillan, London a. a. 1991, ISBN 0-333-42140-X .

See also

Web links

Commons : Paris Peace Conference 1919  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The British Dominions prevailed with their demands to be represented by their own authorized representatives, and British India was granted its own representation.